The Sound of Silent Leadership…in Self-defense

March 18, 2020

We have examined many ways in which servant leaders need to learn to be silent. But the most difficult time to remain silent is when we are personally attacked or accused of doing wrong. When this happens, our natural response is to defend ourselves, often loudly! Self-defense is often considered a universal human right. But when Jesus was on trial, He modeled a very different way.

59The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for false evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death. 60But they did not find any, though many false witnesses came forward. Finally two came forward 61and declared, “This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and rebuild it in three days.’”  62Then the high priest stood up and said to Jesus, “Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?” 63But Jesus remained silent. The high priest said to him, “I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God”(Matthew 26:59-63). Jesus’ ability to remain silent in this situation is remarkable and has much to teach us about the power of silence in self-defense.

Silence in self-defense reveals humility. Jesus’ silence revealed a deep humility. The accusation they made against Him was a misrepresentation of what He had said in John 2:19. Surely Jesus would set the record straight! But He humbly remained silent, refusing to defend Himself.

Proud people argue their case, they defend themselves loudly. They cannot accept any accusation that makes them look bad whether they are right or not. But servant leaders demonstrate humility as they remain silent when wrongly accused.

Silence in self-defense reflects confidence. Jesus demonstrated remarkable confidence with His silence. He didn’t need to argue about His identity as the Messiah. He did not need to defend who He was. He knew who He was. His silence shouted that He had nothing to prove.

Silence in self-defense speaks more loudly than shouting and arguing. It reveals a deep confidence that I don’t need to prove I am right; I know I am right. Sometimes the strongest sound is silence. Servant leaders express confidence by keeping quiet when accused.

Silence in self-defense requires trust in God. The silence of Jesus while on trial shows that His trust was not in any human verdict that would condemn or release Him. He knew that only God would determine His destiny. Peter, only a few moments after Jesus’ silence, would vigorously defend himself (see Matthew 26:69-75). But years later as he recalled Jesus’ death said, “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:23).Jesus’ silence influenced Peter who now challenges us to follow the example of Jesus.

Leaders who trust in themselves need to speak loudly and persuasively in self-defense. But leaders who trust in God’s judgment can quietly wait for His verdict. Servant leaders express trust in God when they remain silent in self-defense.

Is there ever a time to for a leader to speak up when accused? Jesus, right after this silence, was commanded by the high priest to speak. At that point He calmly spoke the truth about His identity. There are times when it is right to speak in defense of truth on our own behalf. But servant leaders only use this right after they have learned the painful discipline of silence. They cry out to God for wisdom to know when to speak and when to influence through silence.

Silent leadership speaks loudly in self-defense! Servant leaders move up by shutting up!

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

For further reflection and discussion:

  • Am I humble enough to be quiet when wrongly accused? What is it within me that rises to defend myself?
  • In what life situations have I kept quiet and simply trusted God to determine the outcomes? What was the result? If I have not done this, is there a current situation in which I should follow Jesus by keeping quiet?
  • In what situations is it good for me to share a verbal defense of my actions? How do I know when it is the right time to talk and when to keep silent? What do I need to do before opening my mouth?
  • Is there a difference between defending myself and defending others who are falsely accused? How do I determine the difference?

In the next series, we’ll look at choosing leaders God’s way.